Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Rimini Family

Ciao tutti!
Instead of writing a normal letter, this week I'll just be sending pictures. I want to introduce you to some of the amazing people I've met here in Rimini and tell you what I've learned from them.

I'll miss our beautiful arc. It's been there since before Christ was born. I feel
so blessed to be in a country with this much history.
First though, I know some of you have written me asking me about transfers. Well, I'm leaving my perfect little Rimini and my wonderful family here. We were all expecting that, so we weren't too surprised. I'm headed off to Vercelli to be companions with Sorella Walsh. I don't know her, but she came in with Sorella Strong. We were a little surprised at the rest of the news. We knew of course Sorella Lofley was going home. Taking her place will be Sorella Palumbo. But, Sorella Strong is leaving too. She's going to Firenze to be companions with my sweet Sorella Holloway. I'm so excited for her. We're both sad, but excited. Taking our place here in Rimini will be . . . Anziani! Not just any Anziani - Anziano Young is coming to train. I feel very blessed. Once again, people I love are going to be together. It's hard to leave Rimini, just like it was hard to leave Milano, but Anziano Young was there to take care of Milano, and he'll be here to take care of Rimini too. I'm so excited for him and for Rimini. There are a lot of changes, especially because on Sunday, Emilio was released as our branch mission leader; now he's the branch president! Great things are going to happen for Rimini, I can feel it!

I had a feeling I'd be leaving on Sunday, so I just started crying. Please ignore my tear stained face in these pictures. We all know I'm an emotional wreck.

Sometimes we just study hymns for a while. I'll miss living
in four with musical sisters.
Our dear little church. I''ll miss riding down the hill to our pink church.
It's my favorite church I've ever seen.

This is Emilio's new desk as branch president. I don't think he's ever been
as excited as when we showed him this picture. "My daughter in my desk!
How Beautiful!" Oh, Presidente Babbo!

Babbo and Mamma. I don't now what I'll do without them.
These two people have changed my life. I thank my lucky
stars for them each and every day.

This is Fratello Asioli. He's a spiritual giant and blows my mind. Like
everyone else in Rimini, he loves the missionaries. He loves the work.
He loves the Lord.

Luigi came over for dinner with us and the Zufolini's last night. It was
such a blessing to get to say goodbye to him.

I'll never forget these two people (Emilio e Ilaria). They've changed my
life in so many ways.

Emilio is so much more than a branch mission leader. He's a friend and a
father. He's taught me how to smile when I'm sad and how to smile
when my heart is broken. He's taught me how to find ways to show I care
when normal ways are out of reach. He's shown me more love than almost
anyone I've ever met. We don't just call him babbo because it's a cute
nickname. He really is our dad.

Mamma and Babbo making a wonderful meal for our last night with them.

Babbo made this. It's the three kingdoms of glory. How great is he?

Ilaria is so amazing. I've seen her show more love and kindness to people
than anyone else I've ever met. She's taken care of me in my hardest
moments, and she's taught me how to serve. She thinks of things no one
else would. She's taken me shopping, come to lessons, fed us dinner,
and dried my tears.

Babbo making the finest focaccia in the world.

Alan is one of my favorite people. He's getting ready to serve a mission, and
in two years, he's going to be one of the best missionaries there ever was.
He came to a baptism with us once in Ancona because the two youth
getting baptized were going to be the first two young men in the branch, and
he wanted to welcome them. He's all about the service, and it's so great.

Marco! He wants to share the Gospel with everyone he knows. I've learned
so much from him about the reasons for serving. It's all about the love.

We had a sweet cultural night with so many people! The sisters from Forli
were there for awhile because it was a district party. Sorella Andromidas is
in her first transfer, but she gets it. She knows what needs to be done, and
she does it. Sorella Jameson is one of the sweetest people I know. She cares
about making people feel loved and welcomed. It's impossible to not feel
the spirit while in her presence.
Sabrina and Louisa! These women have shown such a beautiful desire
and faith. All they want is to do their best. I love them with all of my heart.

Our third missionary, again! (Me, Emanuele, and Sorella Strong)

Sorella Manola! This woman is so sweet! She called us to ask about transfer
calls once, just to make sure we were staying. She was heartbroken we were
leaving. The love in her heart for the missionaries is astounding. Once, she
made us tacos, and it probably made my life. Have you ever tried tacos with
Gouda! It's surprisingly perfect.

The Canuti's! They are a family with light in their eyes. I've never met
anyone who gets more excited to talk about the Gospel than these two
wonderful people. Every time they share the Gospel, they are overjoyed.

Emanuele! I don't know what to say about him. His conversion story is one
of the greatest I've ever heard, and he makes the best food I've  ever eaten.
He's waiting for his mission call, and he'll be a bravo missionary. He helped
us out a lot in any way he could think of. I learned to always look for the
silver lining from him. He surely knows how to make beautiful things
happen out of sad circumstances.

Julia is the bomb! I don't have words to describe her. Every Sunday in
Gospel Principles, she always takes notes, and the she'll ask me about them
later. She's one of those people who's eager to learn. I love it!

Okay, so this is Sunny. This man is such a missionary. He invited both Joy
and Abraham to listen to the lessons, and look at them now! He knows the
Church is true, and he wants everyone else to know it. I hope someday I'm
even half as great as a missionary as he is.

Sorella Adriana is the sweetest! She didn't know what she could do to help
the missionaries, so she invited us to learn Italian with her once a week. It
brings her such joy to help us. She's one of those people who will give
everything they have. It's the greatest.

Olga taught me a lot about the desire to have faith. She always tells us to
pray for her to have the faith of Abraham. Let me tell you, she already
does. She acts upon every prompting, even when she doesn't know what
the result will be.

This is joy. She's so incredible. Sometimes we'll ask her a question, and she
blows our minds with her answer that is so above and beyond anything
I could ever think of.  She loves people, and she's really strong. Every
Sunday she is so excited to see us and will hug us for five minutes just
looking into our eyes.

Anziano and Sorella Jefferies have blessed my life a thousand times. I
cannot even begin to tell you everything they have done for me. Mostly
though, they just love people. They take care of us as missionaries, and they
take care of their branch in Forli. I wish I could swerve with them forever.

So this is Abraham, our new convert. These pictures pretty much
describe our relationship.

Let me tell you, this man has a beautiful desire to follow Christ.
Sometimes he just says, "I don't know everything I need to do, that's why
you're here; what do I need to do to follow Christ?" How great is that? I
learned from him what faith means: not that we understand everything, but
that we try hard and we act on what we do know.

Well, that's it from Rimini. I've loved my time here and it's all because of the people. My life has been changed in Rimini; I have been changed in Rimini. I hope you all are able to come and see my perfect little town someday. If you do, they'll welcome you with open arms. This branch is a family. I'm greatful that God let me be a part of it, even if it was only for four months. I'm heartbroken I'm leaving, but I'll never forget what I have learned here. I am excited for Vercelli. I can't wait to tell you all about it next week.

Con tutto il mio cuore
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Take Some Time To Make Some Music Today

Me, Sorella Strong, Giaccomo, and Alan
This week we had an amazing branch activity. The theme was “The Plan of Salvation.” Several of the members gave short talks and bore their testimonies. Then Sorella Strong and I were in a short skit with our two priests. Emilio wrote it for us, and it was about faith. Giaccomo and Alan were farmers, and we were explaining to them how our faith is just like a seed. That's an experience I never really expected to have, but our members all loved it. A few of our members brought friends and family who aren't members of the church. They really are loving all the opportunities they have to be missionaries. This Saturday we're having a multicultural night, and they are all so excited! I can't wait to tell you about it next week. As missionaries, we're representing America, Albania, and Italy. It's going to be so much fun!

Me, Sorella Strong, Emilio, Giaccomo,
and Alan
We had a lot of really beautiful things happen this week. We went to our district relief society president's house last Wednesday. We shared our message with Sorella Pini, and then her husband came home. He started investigating the church with his wife 30 years ago, but was never baptized. We had the most amazing lesson with him. He wants to start meeting with us again, and he agreed to read the Book of Mormon everyday. I can't even express how much I love this family. I just feel so connected to them. It was such a beautiful lesson; I'm so grateful I was apart of it. 

The Draghi family asked us to visit their neighbors. Sunday I talked to Giaccomo in church, and he agreed to come with us that night to see them. We went over at 8:30, and together the three of us walked across the hall. Giaccomo was great! When his neighbor opened the door, he explained who we are and asked if we could come in and share a message. We didn't have very much time so we shared a small thought about prayer. At the end, the neighbor asked what the difference is between our church and hers. Giaccomo answered in the most simple and sweet way; then he told her that we can come back and explain more on a different day. Giaccomo will be going on a mission in a couple of years; he'll be so bravo!

Monday we were walking through centro, and I noticed my favorite street musician playing. We stopped to listen just for a moment and noticed another man behind us listening as well. We asked him if he enjoyed the music and talked to him about how we feel close to the Lord when we listen to music. We ended up teaching him about the restoration of the Lord’s church, and he asked if he could come to church with us. Music has played a part in so many miracles I've seen on my mission.

When I was set apart, I was told that I had been chosen to come to Italy because of my love of music. I was also told it would be one of the most important aspects of my mission. I was stunned. I didn't really believe it could be possible. Let me tell you something; don't ever doubt the Lord. I have seen miracle after miracle happen because of music. It touches hearts and initiates change. I'm so grateful for the effect music has had on my mission. 

We have a feeling this is my last week in Rimini. Transfers are coming up, and we're pretty sure I'll be headed somewhere else. We could be wrong; you never know what's going to happen. Just in case though, we're doing a special musical number in church on Sunday. I think one reason I feel like music has affected my mission so much is because of the many opportunities I have had to sing for people. It's the only way I know to show them how much I really love them. Music is a cry of the soul. It can be happy or it can be sad. It allows us to connect with each other, to share how we're feeling in one of the most easily understood ways. This branch has taught me a lot about music and how it connects us all together. I'll never forget them for that.

I love you all. Take some time to make some music today. 
Sorella Ervin

This is what we look like when it rains (me & Sorella Strong).

Sorella Strong, Yulia, and me

Emilio mad us cookies (Sorella Gjika and me)

Sorella Gjika, me, and Sorella Strong

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Smile Anyway

Sometimes, Italians make you put a turkey on your head
in public. Here we are, surrounded by classy, beautiful
Italians, with a turkey on our heads. I cannot believe my life.

Basically, I love life right now. It's beautiful. There is not another word to describe it. A few weeks ago at district conference, Anziano Reina said something that touched my heart. "We are a strange people. We are strange because we have the same trials, problems, and tribulations as everyone else in the world. Bad things happen, but when they do, we smile anyway."

Sure, life is tough. I haven't had a progressing investigator in the last two transfers. My heart breaks a little more every single day. I don't remember what it means to feel rested or to feel comfortable. I can barely speak English anymore, but speaking Italian stresses me out. WHO CARES? Smile anyway.

We all have trials. Some are big, some are little, and some are just weird. I went through a while this week when I was just really sad. I was tired of feeling like I wasn't really helping anyone. But I realized there was no point in being sad. If I let myself be sad, then I'm not going to be able to do this work. I can only do this work when I'm grateful everyday to be a part of it.

So I changed my attitude and decided to smile anyway. This doesn't work if you don't find reasons to be happy. If all you're doing is plastering a fake smile on your face, it doesn't help anyone. The smile has to be real. Luckily, we're in a habit of finding miracles. These help, I promise!

As soon as I made the choice, life became a little better. We saw many miracles this week. On Sunday we ate lunch with our district president and his family. It was wonderful! We talked about the work and his vision to move this district forward so one day we can be a stake. He asked us to do training for the branch mission leaders. What a blessing! Also, I found out, when he served his mission in Milano, he served in my ward. Milano Navigli! He also baptized one of my favorite members, Fratello Angiulli, who later became a bishop. 

Also at church we had a visitor from Ghana! He was here on business. He was a mission president in Nigeria until this last June. He came up to talk to my companion and me. He told us how he was baptized in England 35 years ago. When he went to Utah to be trained as a mission president, his two sister missionaries met him at the airport. BEAUTIFUL! 

Let me tell you - miracles happen. Life itself is a miracle. It's not always easy to be happy 100% of the time. But it's worth a try. I love Rimini, and looking back I wouldn't change my experiences here for the world. We've had a lot of success in different ways then we have been expecting. Our branch is full of some of the best member missionaries in the world. All they want to do is share the gospel. I'm so grateful for them.

I'm also grateful for all of you. Thank you for your prayers. I felt them this week more than ever. 

I love you.
Sorella Ervin

Our beautiful park.

La famiglia Caramia e Michelle

Anziano Kekoolani!

Our district trying to pull ourselves together.
It's not easy for us.

Me and my little Sorella Gjika.

Anziani Gibbons e Tolman.

Sorelle Lofley e Gjika.
Old Wild West

Sorella Strong and me at Old Wild West!
Sorella Strong

Sorella Gjika

Sorella Lofley